Refresh your skills! Think you remember what you learned in grade school? High school? Think again. Does a comma need to be placed before “and” or “but”? Quotation marks or Italics for songs, names, titles?

One of the first things I realized after writing my first book, I wasn’t a good editor. I set out to fix that problem right away.

I know Word is very good at recognizing spelling errors, incomplete sentences and capitals. If you use a homonym (similar words like too, to, two) it won’t pick up on those mistakes. Only rely on Word as your first line of defense.

Use names sparingly when characters speak to each other. I learned that from my publisher. Think of how you talk. Do you repeat your friend’s name over and over again? Read your dialogue aloud. Does the wording sound realistic?

Read other blogs about editing. You can learn so much. I recently read a post that discussed the word “it”. The topic “What is it?” was the only thing discussed. Reading through my stories, I found many times I could have used a better word or rephrased so that word wasn’t used. “It” was easy to use; formulating a new sentence was harder. After trying it, I liked it much better. Oops! I just used that word…twice in that sentence! Sometimes it’s okay to do so, but let’s try again. How about this:

After trying it, I liked it much better. That was my original sentence.

Changed to:

After experimenting with a few sentences, I liked the new statement much better. This new sentence took away any question of what I was trying to say.

I could bore you about hyphens and numbers and a list of grammar lessons, but they are easy to look up. Don’t guess, double-check is my suggestion. (And after reading that back, a new slogan has been born.)

My last word of advice is to wait a few weeks after finishing a new manuscript. Look at the words with a fresh eye. If you begin to reread as soon as you finish, you’re too close to the story. You’ll miss mistakes.

Remember, you are the alpha reader of your story. You should enlist beta readers after you feel you’ve done your best. You don’t have to hire someone. There are groups who exchange services, family members and friends may volunteer. Be open to constructive criticism because in the end, you want your book to be error free and ready to be released to the world.


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Today my guest author is Val Clarizio. I’m always happy to find out another author knows the beginning and end of their novel, but the story will evolve as they begin to write. Also those challenging blurbs and creating a title get to me, too! Can I borrow that friend, Val? Read on to find out how Val’s writing process works.

Where do I Begin and how do I get to the Finish Line?

Usually, what happens to get me started is I have some sort of bizarre dream with a crazy scenario for my characters to endure. After I bounce the main idea around in my head a bit I simply start typing. I know how I’m going to start, and most times I have a clear idea about how I’m going to end the story, but getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ is a mystery for me until my fingers hit the keyboard. It’s then, my characters come to life and tell me how it’s going to be. Sometimes my characters are quiet and mellow about it, and other times they yell at me in the middle of the night, wanting to be heard. I love when they yell, my fingers can’t move fast enough on the keyboard to suit their needs, and I get a lot accomplished on those days. Unfortunately, when my characters are quiet, I may have to step away from the project for a bit, but they always tend to come back around to help me complete the book.


After two published novellas and two published books, I can honestly say that writing the story is the easy part, it’s naming the books and writing the blurbs that I can’t seem to handle. That said, I call on my friends and beta readers to help me out. We spend days emailing back and forth trying to hone in on a name. As for the blurb, I usually write one that includes all the points I want to make and then a good friend of mine pares it down for me. She can write blurbs but not books, and I can write books but not blurbs. We’re quite the duo.


Now that everything is in order I have to go through the terrifying process of querying my publishers to see if any of them will contract for the book.  Will I get the dreaded rejection letter or will I find myself doing the happy dance?  In the event of the happy dance, a new phase of work begins….Edits, cover, and promo!  In the meantime, my fingers are itching to hit the keyboard to start the next project.  As a whole, writing is a never ending process, and I absolutely love it.

Find Val here:

Melange Books                                                 2CravingVengeance

Website: http://valclarizio.wordpress.com/


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Today’s guest author is my friend and author, Tara Fox Hall. She is the author of the Promise Me series and many other novels! Besides being a busy writer, she has been a great mentor to me. If you’re lucky, you may find someone like her to help you through the ups and downs of writing and promotion.


The term “word count” is familiar to any author, no matter if they write long novels or micro fiction. But the term is probably most important to those who write shorter stories, like flash fiction.

Most flash fiction is 1000 words or less, though some websites define it as 500 words, maximum. But no matter how you define it, one thing is cut and dry: word count is everything. It defines the story arc, giving the action precise limits, demanding that each word be essential to the action, or face the chopping block. When you have that few words, you can’t afford to waste one that doesn’t convey plot, mood, or meaning.

My first experience with word count was a 24-hr contest I entered. The topic was given in a paragraph. The limit was 900 words, firm. I wrote the story I wanted to write, and then checked the word count. It was 1200 words. Panicked, I began paring down, then checked again. Still too long by over a hundred words. I pared down to the absolute max, then checked again. Still too long.

That day, I wrote and rewrote the story, checking the word count again and again. Each time, I was either under and the story was choppy, or the story was complete and I was over the limit. Frustrated and tense as a spring, I pushed myself to keep reworking, to make the deadline with an engaging story. Hours later, I finished with 2 words to spare, at 898 words. It had been arduous, but I’d done it. Excited and relieved, I sent it off, sure I would place, if not win the prize.

I didn’t win the contest. I didn’t even get an honorable mention. But the experience gave me the skills to convey my story arc in the least number of words possible. I could write an interesting story in a set number of words, if I just worked at it. Further, I was sure that I could do it for stories from my own imagination. I’d learned something valuable and I couldn’t wait to put it to use.

I went on to place many horror stories, and then longer works, most recently Just Shadows, my anthology of horror stories from Bradley Publishing. And my story that failed to win? I sold it a year later to the Halloween Alliance, where it still resides online for all to enjoy.

You can find Tara’s books here:

Melange Books

and more about Tara here:

Website: www.tarafoxhall.com      PM9DarkSolace-FINAL

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Today Joy V. Smith joins us. She has another take on writing Science Fiction. Compare her to John Steiner’s techniques from a few weeks back. We all create differently!

Straight on Until a New Planet
by Joy V. Smith

       I love SF, and some of my favorite stories are about other worlds, including Andre Norton’s adventure-filled books, Christopher Anvil’s Pandora’s Planet, Gordon R. Dickson’s The Outposter, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars, and Keith Laumer’s Retief series.

Usually I start out with a story and then fit in the background–planet and culture, though some of my stories are set completely on Earth.  While my main characters are usually Americans in stories set on Earth, elsewhere I often give them backgrounds of other countries and cultures to make them more interesting.

Some planets are simple, with little description of wildlife, moon(s), etc. (I don’t want to worry about tides and how things evolved). I’ve spent more time inventing planets like Snakebite in Hidebound, which also included the hero’s planet (one even nastier than Snakebite so that the humanoids evolved physical protection making them rather like supermen and women.  (The men were very wary of women…).  I made this planet interdicted.   And then there’s the colonized planet in Velvet of Swords (more nasty flora and fauna as the result of genetic engineering).  It was colonized by humans and aliens, with the humans indulging themselves in old Terran cultures.
Other interesting planets are found in What Price a Friendly Freep to explain the aliens, and Pretty Pink Planet, which was began, as I recall, as an experiment in writing a series story with similar titles, as with some popular mystery series.  Time portals from Terra to other planets or time machines to other times are fun too.

There are books and websites on world-building; I haven’t spent much time there, but I’ve discussed various ideas on some of the AOL writing boards, where a writer can ask for input when trying to solve a story problem.  I recently asked about missiles and subs in the Zap Gun folder (SF/Fantasy board), where we also discussed Keith Laumer’s Bolo (super tanks) series.

For some stories, I’ve had to create maps to keep track of where my characters are running amuck.  I have to keep track of directions and distances.  If you’re writing a story about Mars or the moon, however, you can use NASA maps, available in books, on websites, or even as posters.  There are also Mars and moon globes.  Nowadays, there is less invention in stories set there.

So, you can find the blocks for building your world in the far corners of the universe of the mind, but for decorating and landscaping, you may want to research other planets and other cultures (I think the Celtic culture is way over-used, though that’s mostly in fantasy), found in fiction and non-fiction books and stories; then you can put your own twist on a planet, an animal, or an intelligent being.  And don’t hesitate to use an alien with tentacles.  They’re not passé if you can add something new.

Find Joy here:              joyvsmith

Melange Books



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Today my guest is Donna Driver, a Fire and Ice young adult author. I’m sure every writer can agree that we hope for someone to quote us or think our writing stands out from the rest! Thank goodness for editors and authors who listen to them. Kudos to Donna! As writers we have to be open to suggestions, revisions and anything else that will make our writing better. I really enjoyed this post. Hope you do, too.

A Great 1st Line (For Chapter Two) – by D. G. Driver

“No good calls ever came at two o’clock in the morning. Only ones that wipe out any hope of having a normal day. On this particular morning, it wiped out hope of anything ever being “normal” again.”

This was supposed to be the opening line of my novel Cry of the Sea. I was so proud of it. So proud! Yes, I envisioned its brilliance being quoted as one of the great opening lines of YA literature at many a writer’s conference for years to come. I loved it so much that no matter what I felt about the rest of the chapter, I was determined to keep that first line.

Why was I so sure? Or stubborn? I have attended so many writing workshops and read so many books and articles about the craft of writing novels. Several things have been drummed into my head. “Have a great opening line.” “Hook your reader from the first moment.” “Start where the action is.” “Start your novel where the protagonist’s life changes from its normal routine.” “Start on the day that is different.” And my favorite? “Get to the main point of the plot before page 30.”

So, I had this idea for a story about a girl who discovers mermaids caught in an oil spill. Based on everything I’ve learned, that meant she had to find the mermaids before page thirty. I also felt strongly that the story needed to start in the moments just before finding those mermaids. How best to do this? I thought it would be exciting to have her wake up to the alarming news of the oil spill and have her rushing out the door with her environmentalist father to get to the beach.

There were some problems with my idea. I had to somehow very quickly introduce my main character and her father, their relationship, and the reason they were going to an oil spill. There was a lot of information to share to have the story make any sense. I thought I’d be clever and get some of that out with a little flashback to the night before in order to explain a few things. Only, that flashback grew from a few paragraphs to a dozen pages before coming back to the big rush to the beach. More important writing advice haunted me: “Don’t have a big flashback in the opening chapter.”  “Don’t info dump.” “Show don’t tell.”

Oh, poo on all of that.  I had an awesome opening line!  It had to stay this way.

Well… I sent my first chapter to a few agents and editors. No one sent me back praise for my glorious first line. No one requested more pages either. I grew frustrated. Yet, I didn’t revise. I’d already revised the book over and over, and I didn’t know how to do it again. Not without ruining my opening line. The writing advice I knew conflicted in my brain.

Bless the team at Fire and Ice, though. They stumbled past my opening chapter and read on to find the story that followed it.  They offered to publish the book and sent Megan Orsini, my editor, to help me out. Her very first note to me:

“I think the flashback in the opening chapter is too long. I forgot it was a flashback. Why don’t you make that the opening chapter and put the phone call and oil spill scene in chapter two.”

But… but… That would put my opening line in chapter two.  Do you hear me whining?

I knew Megan was right, and I followed her advice. I wound up completely rewriting the whole opening to my book. With her guidance, I actually revised the opening chapter six times and the first page an additional two after that. Now my opening line is: “You ready to see how the next big change in your life is going to look?” as asked by June’s father. No, this won’t put me in any lists of great opening lines, but it works. The book works better too.  And guess what? We still meet mermaids on page 22.  Yay!

So, friends, what I’ve learned: don’t marry your words and do trust your editor. With a sly wink, however, I’m happy to announce that a woman who recently reviewed Cry of the Sea on her blog included a quote from my book. Which of my words did she use?  My opening line – of Chapter Two.

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Find Donna here:

Fire and Ice YA

Website: www.dgdriver.com




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My guest today is the author of one of my favorite books, The Winemaker. I’d like to introduce you to my author friend, Charmaine Pauls. She has sent along some invaluable writing tips on how to get published. Charmaine is part of the Melange family and is branching out into new genres as you will see below. Enjoy!

10 Steps in getting published 

  1. Invest in a course 

I highly recommend kicking off your writing career, or boosting it if you’ve been writing for a while, with a course in novel writing. Besides giving you the know-how of technicalities and practicalities of plot, dialogue, pace and writing the perfect beginning, middle and end, it should also cover areas such as writing query letters and blurbs. If a course proves too challenging in terms of time or funds, try some of the excellent books available on the subject. One of my favorites is The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Novel Writing (from the editors of Writer’s Digest), but there are literally hundreds to choose from.

  1. Join a writers’ network

No man is an island. Even the most solitary of writers need to connect with like-minded people. The fact that writing requires long hours of isolated work often poses a challenge to avoid working in a bubble. The most I’ve learned about writing and improving my skill is from my writers’ group. Being part of a dedicated and professional group can be an extremely helpful tool in growing, exercising and fine-tuning your talent, as your work is critiqued in a loving and caring environment. Not only will it push you to achieving a higher work standard, but the inspiration and support you’ll get from fellow-writers are invaluable. It often also leads to meeting a mentor or someone who relates to your work and who becomes a soundboard for plots and problems. Membership presents exposure to courses and competitions, as well as invitations to submit work for publishing. Ask at local associations or universities for a list of groups or clubs. Many writers’ groups run websites or blogs. A couple of minutes on the internet can turn up just the right group for you.

  1. Research your genre

Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre. Borrow books from friends. Start or join a book exchange program. Visit second-hand bookstores. Check for special and free deals on eBooks. Ask for a membership discount at your local bookshop. Get a library card. If you’re not sure in which direction your writing is going to go, don’t harp on it too much. It may take writing a few books before you discover your niche, and it often shows up in your writing if you follow your heart and write what you’re passionate about. When asked why I write romance, I always answer because that’s what I like to read most. It makes my heart beat faster. Read the best of the best in your field of interest. It inspires, teaches by example and refuels creativity. It’s an indispensable investment.

  1. Be disciplined

Creativity doesn’t come to life with the push of the computer’s start-up button, but write every day nevertheless. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. I’ve spoken to many aspiring novelists who claim that they have several unfinished manuscripts in a drawer, but never advance to actually completing anything. Tackle a task and finish it. Write over the dip in creativity and fix it later. Keep at it. Respect your timetable and ask others to respect it too. Unplug the phone or write away from home if you must. Find a corner in a Starbucks if distractions at home or the constant ring of the doorbell interfere with your concentration. Write when your creativity is at its peak. My best time for writing is early morning. I book four hours every day from 9 am to 1 pm and everyone knows that I’m only to be disturbed in case of an emergency. In the evening when my creative performance experiences a slump, I edit or do my review reading for two hours. Afternoons are reserved for after-school activities with the kids, chores and exercise. Weekends are family time, unless I’m in my editing cave. Maintain a healthy balance in your schedule. You know what they say about all work and no play!

  1. Present the best work you can

Have an excellent product to sell. Write with passion. Write what comes from the heart and what makes you tick. Use your unique voice and style. Once your manuscript is complete, save it away in a file (and don’t forget to make a back-up!) and let it cool for a couple of months. When you go back to it, it’ll read fresh and obvious errors and necessary improvements will jump at you from the screen. I prefer to edit my manuscripts at least three times before I put the final full stop. Then give it to a friend (or even better – two or three) to read to ensure it’s free of typos and grammatical errors. You’re a serious and professional writer, and your work should reflect this.

  1. Employ an editor

If you can afford to, employ the services of a good editor. There are several private editors advertising their services (always ask for referrals), or you could invest in an editing package from companies such as Amazon’s CreateSpace that is tailored to self-publishing authors’ needs. This is an invaluable experience, especially for your first novel, that can help you improve greatly and avoid the common pitfalls. If a paid service is not an option, try to negotiate an exchange of services with an editor. You could, for example, offer a writing service in exchange for editing. (I often write articles for magazines in exchange for a free ad of my books.) Or, you could make a deal with a fellow-author to edit each other’s books. This is where writers’ groups can help greatly.

  1. Research your chosen publishers

Instead of shooting an arrow into the dark by blindly submitting your manuscript to hundreds of publishers, research each carefully. Publishers almost always list exactly what they are looking for in a story and what not in their submission guidelines. Read their requirements carefully. There’s no point in submitting a mystery to a publisher who only specializes in romance, or a sci-fi to a publisher who is closed for submissions in this genre. You’ll soon get a feel for each publishing house and its style. Be sure to submit your manuscript to the right publisher for your work. If they state ‘no memoirs’ in their guidelines, they mean it. A well-written memoir won’t slip through because of its craft. This is all about marketing and selling a product, so stick to the rules. It helps to do a search of the publishers who are actually calling for submissions in your genre. This way you know that you are providing work for which there is a need, and your chances at receiving a contract are considerably higher. The research initially takes time, but it saves time and frustration in the end.

  1. Follow the guidelines

You have a great product and you’ve found the right publisher for your style of writing who is open to submissions. Read the submission guidelines carefully. This is non-negotiable. A font type and size, line spacing and indent will be specified, as well as the acceptable electronic file formats. While most publishers these days prefer to receive electronic submissions, some may still require a typed manuscript by snail mail. When they state that submissions not complying with the requirements won’t be considered, they are serious. Each publisher has their own requirements in terms of how much they initially want to see of your work. Some may ask for only a query letter including a short synopsis, while others may ask for a three to four page synopsis, or/and the first three chapters of your book. Some publishers demand attachments while others want the required text to be part of the body of the email. They may also have a specific manner in which to name your files, or a required subject header for your email submission. Make sure that you get it right before sending off your work.

  1. Don’t give up

You wait in anticipation, anything from between two or three weeks to six months, and the answer is no, sorry, but your story is not what we want right now. Hang in there. If you’re lucky enough to have received feedback from the editor, use it to improve your manuscript. You may wish to submit the same manuscript after improvements to the same or other publishers, or to start on a new one altogether. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even best selling authors have rejected manuscripts behind their names. Talent will bring you far, but passion and determination are what’s going to land that hard-earned contract in your lap.

  1. Write several books

Practice makes perfect. World-famous golfer Gary Player said luck comes with plenty of practice. It takes several books to become an accomplished author, with the exception of a few who made it from book number one. Even if you just write for yourself, write numerous manuscripts. Your style and skill will develop over time, always pushing your limits. Like with any exercise, if you want to be a top performer, you need to stay fit.  It’s a time-consuming and energy drenching quest, but if it’s in your blood, it’s a calling that won’t let you go. Enjoy the journey!

Charmaine can be found here:  Charmaine 009

Melange Books




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Summer Writing Series continues with a look at Science Fiction. John Steiner is an author at Melange Books. He will share his views on how he built the world for his Flipspace series.

The Astrotecture of Flipspace:
Engineering Adventure
By John Steiner

               Science fiction with spaceflight was how I started my journey as a writer, and it’s always been my first love. It took novels about vampires to break out into the published world, but my end goal was to reach for the stars. Flipspace represents that dream.

The core of my writing was in the format of full length novels, often as unconnected stories within the same universe. Yet, for Flipspace I had a chance to develop a new approach to building an audience based on current trends in fiction. Frequently, I heard people say they’d love to read my work if they had the time. Even when blazed through, novels take hours to read. An enraptured reader won’t put a book down, but an uncommitted reader may fail to pick up where they left off. But most people have time for TV shows streamed on demand.

Aware of that, I began drafting a template that each installment of Flipspace would be built around. Never before had I been so rigid in forming a story. For those familiar with “The Last Unicorn” I had previously felt like the character, Schmendrick the Magician, “Magic, magic do as you will.”

However, to build a series of short stories required consistency and that in turn demanded timing that audiences came to rely on in television episodes. The first Flipspace story, Flight of the Mockingbird became the mold by which all other Flipspace missions would follow. Each story had seven chapters, and no one chapter went over four full-length pages in my word processor. Story introduction had to be confined to the first chapter. Climatic action floated between chapters five or six, though it wasn’t unusual for that to bleed over into the last chapter, particularly when suspense or horror was the climax.

In writing Flipspace I refined the economy of language and the timing of revealing character backgrounds. I knew that I couldn’t give in-depth histories of even a couple main characters in Flight of the Mockingbird, but there was so much about each crew member I wanted readers to discover. What is the reason Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra employs the unique command style she does? Why does her second-in-command, Major Lamarr Fitch switch unpredictably between prankster and serious? And just why in the hell does the flight surgeon, Captain Malcolm O’Connell have such an old man attitude?

Among the real joys of character-building in Flipspace were the many evolving relationships among the crew. Each character is propelled along a unique trajectory, and yet they still somehow managed to grow closer as a cohesive unit. There are differences of opinion, sometimes heated exchanges, and lingering resentments, but as is common in military units, they all pull in the same direction to get the job done.

With two characters, I drew on some of my older works. Todd Nathanial Ash, the ship’s genetic expert and notorious genetics hacker came from another short story called “Small Time” in my anthology, Tampered Tales. A character who I realized early on risked stealing the show was Captain Malcolm O’Connell, and his backstory is my firefighter science fiction novel, Fire Alive! which takes place some one hundred fifty years before Flipspace.

Tampered Tales contains another short story that I used as backdrop for one of the Flipspace installments, but which one and why would spoil the surprise. However, the rest of the world-building readers need for Flipspace takes place within the series itself, and sufficient hints for Malcolm and Todd won’t leave an audience scratching their heads for understanding each character’s persona or motivations.

There are two other key factors behind the expanding universe of Flipspace that are promises I made to myself when evolving the series. First, that all the science would be as accurate as I could make it. Even the spatial rotation for crossing between stars drew on real principles of cosmology and the forces we know act on our universe today. Also, I took in account the historical trajectory of human civilization and the advances in societies the world over and those soon to populate outer regions of our solar system. The social dynamics and what issues bring concern to the denizens of the future help shape the view readers have of the world that the crew of the ISS Mockingbird swore to defend.

The second promise I committed myself to would be no time travel. Often, I would look forward to a show or written story about spaceflight only to lose the thrill of exploration and discovery because of travelers from the future or a crisscrossing of timelines. I’ve come to recognize when time travel had become a sorry plot patch leaving the story ragged and mismatched. Star Trek: Enterprise is one such show that I was initially excited about until, that is, a character I came to call “Captain Buzzkill from the 26th Century” slipped into the era of the first starship voyage to spoil the tale and spill the beans about what the crew would find before they got there.

Critically, I needed a solid reason to avoid time travel, which I found in Max Planck’s scientific definition. So armed, I pushed the Flipspace saga into a blind future with the excitement of never knowing what awaited the crew at the end point of each spatial rotation. I structured these missions into a compact format that renders the science accessible to readers, while offering action, character and story that one could enjoy without doing a Google search.

So for two dollars and an hour’s flight time you can hitch a ride of adventure on the ISS-454 Mockingbird and be “Feet Down” by the time world calls you back.

Fire Alive! [cover art final]    Flipspace, Flight of the Mockingbird [front cover, Becca Barnes]


You can find John here:

Melange Books


John Steiner earned his Associates of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math, biology, physics and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

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Okay, Pat had me at she’s a lifelong teacher. We are two peas in a pod. Teachers are exposed to so many books we have to pick up some pointers along the way.

Read another young adult author’s view on what type of stories she writes and why. Today my guest is Pat Gilkerson, author of The Horse Rescuer Series. I love her main character’s name, Piper Jones. 

How Do I Decide What to Write About?

Sometimes people ask me how I decide what to write about. The short answer is that I write about things I’m interested in or passionate about. The long answers are much more detailed.

Why do I write children’s books?

As a lifelong teacher, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the books that are out there for kids. On one hand, there are some that are so good, it’s intimidating. Who would dare compete with them for readership? On the other hand, some are so bad and so obviously created to sell a cartoon character that I always thought, “I could do better than this any day!” When my urge to write got strong enough, children’s books were the natural outlet for my creativity.

Why did I write horse stories?

I’ve always loved animals, but growing up in Kentucky solidified my love of horses at an early age. I read every horse book I could find in my small town library. My father completely frustrated me by not seeing the need for me to have a horse of my own. I selected my college (first two years) by the fact that I could take riding lessons there. I think my father always believed I married my husband Jim because he was a veterinarian and would get me a horse. Well, he did. I got my first horse after I had both of my children and have had horses ever since. Currently I care for three horses, although I don’t ride anymore. My daughter lives nearby and comes out to ride whenever her job and family allow. When I began writing my first children’s book, it was a YA story about a girl who desperately wanted a horse. Every child wants a pony, just like every child wants a puppy. And, like puppies, the reality of taking care of a horse or pony is much more involved than any kid dreams. I thought it would be good to give children an idea of exactly what is involved in taking on the responsibility of a horse. In my Horse Rescuers series, Piper Jones rescues a pony, which then needs feeding, watering, exercising, veterinary care, shelter and acres of land. She and her best friend, Addie, have to tend the pony daily. It helps that her father is a veterinarian, so he is frequently on hand to diagnose health problems that crop up. As of this writing, the Horse Rescuers have saved three horses, with three more books to go in the series. We have The Penny Pony, Nickel-Bred, and Turn on a Dime. Following will be titles involving a quarter, half-dollar and dollar.

Why am I currently writing a YA fantasy book?

A huge influence on me was a book I read in 5th grade called The Unicorn with Silver Shoes. It captured my imagination long before unicorns were a common theme for little girls. The book was set in Ireland, had pookas, leprechauns, and many other kinds of faerie creatures, and I always remembered it. In fact, I found it online about five years ago and was thrilled to be able to purchase a copy.  That book began a lifelong fascination with fairy lore. As an adult, I became interested in Irish music, history and how it related to my family. So when I began a story about a boy who meets a green man and is taken into the Land of Faerie, it was natural that I would include a lot of Irish references, Irish music and Irish mythical creatures. Writers know that interesting coincidences sometimes happen as you work on a book. I finished writing the fantasy while on a trip to Ireland with my husband. Waiting in the Dublin airport for our plane, I noticed a restaurant named the Oak Cafe . A sign explained that in Celtic lore, oak trees were doors to the Other World, in the same way that airports are portals to other worlds. A light went on, and I changed my story to reflect oaks being doorways to Faerie. The Great Forest of Shee will be released in the spring of 2015.

What will I write about next?

When I’m done writing the three more Horse Rescuers adventures, I have some ideas. Having taught preschool for many years and loving Irish pubs–why not a main character who teaches preschool and works in a pub at night? I have the character ready to go, but need a plot line. A mystery/romance mash-up? Possibly. I like both genres. Then again, I love scuba diving and the island of Cozumel, so something could happen with that. I’m also really intrigued lately by magical realism, so who knows? There are lots of possibilities out there and it’s exciting to think about where I could go next!



You can find Pat here –

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Summer Writing Series continues! I am excited at the response I’ve had from my author friends and can’t wait to share them with you. There are so many eclectic ideas and writers. I want to introduce you to another YA author from Fire and Ice—Erin Elliot.

Erin is a girl after my own heart. She had me at…the idea for her book started in her head. I can identify with that and how a story unfolds in the mind. There are many ways to write a story and that is just one of them. Read on to find out about how another young adult author, Erin Elliot, writes her novels.

My Writing Process

Until the last year, I didn’t have an answer for this. Sure, I had always wanted to be a writer and until I actually started the process, I thought it was something that was easily accomplished, but I found out just how wrong I was. It all starts with an idea. For me, I work out that idea in my head. I decide what I want to name my main characters, what I want the title to be, and how ultimately, I would like the book to end. Then the fun part, or the most nerve-wracking part for me, begins. Some people have trouble motivating their self to write on a daily basis until their story is done. Me, I have trouble making myself take breaks, especially when my characters are screaming at me, begging me to write their stories down. This is the part that weighs the most heavily on my mind and I literally feel like my brain is trying to implode. You know that feeling when you’re taking a test, that’s what it feels like for me only ten times worse. It’s both a horrible and wonderful feeling, which consumes my life until I get the story all down.

Then comes the various stages of editing. For me, this part isn’t quite as tedious, but it is time consuming. In my case, I revise my story, have my oldest son look at it and give me his opinion, and then I revise it again. I also have beta readers look at it and give me input on what needs to be changed and what is working really well. Basically, I’m cleaning it up to show off to the huge world of publishing. Getting into the publishing companies or literary agencies is a whole other story and one that takes a great deal of time. My best advice to this point is believe in yourself, believe in your story, and don’t give up.

Once, my book has been contracted, I begin working on the next story idea until my book is ready to go through the final editing process. I learned through my first round of edits, that this can be very personal and sometimes very painful. It’s not easy to let someone else read your work and at the same time, tear it apart in order to make it the very best that it can be. It’s a necessary evil and it helps to keep an open mind as well as a good working relationship with your editor and proofer. They mean well and they want your story to sell, too.

When I first stepped foot into the world of writing I, like so many people, thought it would be a simple process, without hardly any work involved. Since becoming engrossed in this world, I have learned quite the opposite holds true. Writing books is a difficult and extraordinarily personal event. You put your heart and soul into a book for the world to read. It is time consuming as well as thought consuming. Is it something that I love? Yes, writing books has become a passion and I encourage everyone who has the courage to write, to do so. The rewards far outweigh the amount of work that goes into it.

Erin has just released the first book of her series. Find her here:

Fire and Ice Young Adult Books


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Since I began to write, I made many author friends. I didn’t expect that to happen. Writers are a solitary bunch, but when it comes to supporting each other that’s a different matter. I also have a support system through my publishing family. So when I asked for some posts about writing, I got a great response.

For the next few months, I am going to run a Summer Writing Series. I asked for tips, writing process, getting published or anything about writing that could be passed along to my readers from my author friends.

Since I write for Fire And Ice, the young adult imprint of Melange books, I am going to introduce you to some its authors first.

Paul Ferrante has written a young adult series of T.J. Jackson mysteries. The latest being Roberto’s Return. Read on to find out how he got his book into Cooperstown Hall of Fame bookstore.

How T.J. Jackson made the Hall of Fame

               I decided to use Cooperstown, New York and the National Baseball Hall Of Fame as the setting for the third installment of the T.J. Jackson Mysteries series, simply because I am very familiar with the town and its environs from visiting it at least once a year to do research for the historical baseball articles I write forSports Collectors Digest. This time I would be featuring the ghost of a person who actually did exist (Roberto Clemente) instead of a fictional ghost. Clemente is a compelling subject, given the greatness of his baseball career and his role as a trailblazing Latino ballplayer in the 1960s. Of course, his mysterious death in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 while on a humanitarian mission of mercy to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua also played a role.

When the book was nearly finished, I took a trip up to Cooperstown in the fall of 2013 to do some final fact checking on Clemente in the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center at the Hall. I figured that as long as I was there I would try to meet with the head of purchasing for the Hall of Fame’s gift shop and bookstore, Mr. Drew Taylor. At that time I shared with him promotional items from the first two T.J. Jackson books, as well as critical reviews such as the one done by Sue Gesing. Mr. Taylor was intrigued, and when I pitched the plot of Roberto’s Return to him, he agreed to review the PDF to determine whether it was suitable for sale in the Hall’s bookstore. Meanwhile, I contacted the mayor of Cooperstown, Jeff Katz, to obtain permission to use the likeness of Doubleday Field, which is a municipal building, for the cover of the book. Luckily, Mayor Katz is a baseball aficionado, and readily agreed.

Well, at the beginning of April 2014 I received word that Roberto’s Return was accepted for sale in the bookstore, a great honor for a baseball writer like myself. It was then my publicity team, namely my wife and agent, Maria Simoes, decided we should maximize this opportunity. First, we contacted Mr. Taylor and told him I would personally deliver the first shipment of books to the Hall on Friday, May 2. Then Maria contacted Mayor Katz to tell him that I would be bringing an autographed copy of the book to him as a thank you for his assistance on the cover. She inquired as to whether the local media would want to cover the event. The mayor gave us the name of a reporter for the Cooperstown Crier, whom we alerted as to my visit. He agreed to meet me and Mayor Katz at the Hall Friday morning for a photo op (which resulted in a fine article in the Crier). From there, Mayor Katz escorted me across the street to the Cooperstown public library where I donated another copy of the book and had my photo taken with the head librarian.

But we weren’t done yet. Maria had also contacted the president of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, Pat Szarpa, whom we met in the hopes that I would be making another visit to town during this summer’s 75th Anniversary of the opening of the Hall of Fame. Finally we had a meeting with Stephanie Hazzard, who arranges author appearances as part of the Hall of Fame’s Summer Author Series. I was happy to tell her about the historical aspect of all the T.J. Jackson books and that Roberto’s Return would give young adult readers a wonderful history lesson on the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown and its local legends, and of course, the great Roberto Clemente. Two weeks later I received word from the Hall of Fame that I had been chosen to speak in the Bullpen Theater at the Hall of Fame on August 7 to discuss Roberto’s Return. This is  the ultimate thrill  for me, but it also illustrates that in the competitive literary market, especially when one is writing for a small publisher, any and all possible marketing opportunities should be seized. Many phone calls and emails were made in this process, but the results have been more than worth the effort.



Find Paul here:

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